You’ve finally written the book you promised yourself to write? Congratulations!

I’m not being falsely enthusiastic in order to make you feel good. I mean it most sincerely.

Do you know you are a rarity? You followed through on a promise you made to yourself. And not just any promise, either. You came through on your promise to write a book. I know the effort, the frustration and the loneliness of your journey; I do!

Take this moment to thank yourself. No matter what happens in the future, no one can dilute the joy of this achievement, can they?

But wait! It is not yet time to clamber on the roof and crow about it.

Publishing a book may be likened to serving a gorgeous cake.

You could pull the cake out of the oven, still hot, and serve it immediately. It would be too hot to eat and would probably make you sick. Moreover, it would turn into a crumbly, wet mess.

OR, you could allow it to cool down, give it a dollop of yummy icing with enticing flavors, add a few flounces and furbelows (read fruits and chocolate), sprinkle some gold and silver balls and then sail into the dining room with the masterpiece.

Your first draft is your cake, fresh out of the oven. Self-editing is you letting the cake cool down and tasting a tiny sliver of it to make sure it tastes okay and you didn’t add salt in place of sugar after all. 

Self-editing is crucial in the process of sharing your book with the world. Let’s dive into some simple tips to get you started on this exciting journey:

Take a Break

Once you’ve finished your first draft, step away for a while. This break gives you fresh eyes when you return, making it easier to spot errors and inconsistencies.

Experts agree that a two-week break is a minimum. Upon your return, you might discover that your protagonist had blue eyes in one chapter and green in another. Oops!

Read Aloud

Reading your manuscript aloud can help you catch awkward phrasing, run-on sentences, and dialogue that doesn’t flow.

In addition, words have their own cadence. You might find that a supposedly tense scene sounded more like a laundry list. Hearing the words can help you rework the pacing and elevate the suspense.

Trim the Fat

Cut out unnecessary words and phrases. Look for filler words like “very,” “just,” and “really.” There is a whole list of them.

One of my pet fillers is a sentence like this:

“It is only after she came home that she realized she had lost her apartment keys.”

How much better it would sound if written this way:

“On returning home she realized she had lost her keys. Oh great!

The sentence is simplified and says the exact same thing. The Oh great can be avoided, of course.

Check for Consistency

Key Areas:

– Character descriptions

– Setting details

– Timeline

One of my clients realized halfway through his memoir that he had aged his character inconsistently. One chapter had him celebrating his 30th birthday, while two chapters later he was suddenly 28 again. A careful review of timelines ensured everything lined up perfectly.

Focus on Dialogue

Good dialogue should reflect how people actually speak while moving the plot forward.

Instead of saying: “I cannot fathom the reason for your query.”

You could write: “Why do you need to know?”

Mind Your Punctuation

Proper punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence. It also helps with pacing and clarity. Missing commas can be disastrous, as we all know.

Revise in Stages

Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Break down your editing process into manageable stages. When working on a client manuscript, these are the stages I follow:

– Structural: Focus on plot and character development.

– Line Editing: Look at sentence structure and word choice.

– Copy Editing: Correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.

Use Editing Tools

Online tools like Grammarly, Hemingway, or ProWritingAid can catch errors and suggest improvements. Some AI tools can also help you rephrase a complicated sentence. But a word of warning! It may flatten out your prose and turn the section insipid. Proceed with caution please. We didn’t come this far to have a brainless AI do that to us.

Get Feedback

Reach out to trusted friends, writing groups, or beta readers. They can provide valuable insights and catch things you might have missed.

Know When to Stop

Avoiding Over-Editing. It’s easy to get caught in an endless loop of edits. Know when your manuscript is ready to go to a professional editor.

Self-editing is a vital step in the writing process. It not only helps improve your manuscript but also enhances your skills as a writer. Remember, every great book has undergone multiple rounds of editing, and yours will too!

Embrace the process with humor and patience. As you dive into editing, remember that you’re not just polishing your manuscript but also honing your craft. So, grab a cup of coffee, take a deep breath, and start transforming your draft into a scintillating piece of brilliance!

Feeling overwhelmed by self-editing? Want an extra pair of eyes to ensure your story shines? Reach out for professional editing services that can help elevate your manuscript to the next level.

Write to me! Let’s polish your story together!